Manage the risks

An assessment of the risk of musculoskeletal problems in cleaners should take account of:

  • all cleaning tasks
  • the individual capacity of the cleaner
  • the loads involved
  • the work environment.

This assessment should consider the main risk factors causing musculoskeletal problems amongst cleaning operatives:

Manual handling

There is information on the assessment and control of manual handling risks on the HSE MSD site.
Manual handling includes pushing and pulling; lifting and lowering; carrying and holding; loading and unloading; holding and restraining; reaching and holding; grasping and throwing; and operating levers and controls where force is required. Causes of problems for cleaners can include:

  • lifting and moving heavy weights
  • poor lifting methods
  • lack of time to work safely
  • restricted workspace
  • poorly designed equipment
  • heavy physical work
  • lack of equipment
  • forceful movements
  • poor equipment maintenance
  • using heavy equipment

Awkward postures

Many of the tasks cleaners conduct require awkward or twisted postures (eg buffing, wiping, and vacuuming) and musculoskeletal disorders may be a result of prolonged static or repetitive postures.

Causes of problems for cleaners include:

  • unsuitable work heights
  • poor work organisation
  • bending, twisting, reaching or crouching
  • repetitive movements
  • poorly designed equipment
  • lack of time to work safely
  • forceful exertions
  • rapid hand movements
  • static postures

Work organisation

Poor work organisation combined with the requirement to adopt awkward postures while conducting strenuous work can contribute to the development of musculoskeletal disorders.
Causes of problems for cleaners include:

  • poor work schedules
  • high workload and time pressures
  • high work speed and intensity
  • lack of control over work/breaks
  • poor or no training

Using vibrating equipment

Poorly maintained or designed equipment can vibrate too much. Examples of injuries that result from vibration include hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), tingling, numbness or whiteness of the hands and fingers. Information on managing the risks of HAVs can be useful resource.

Causes of problems for cleaners include:

  • vibrating equipment
  • work organisation
  • poorly designed equipment
  • poor equipment maintenance
  • poor or no training
  • forceful movements

Further information on risk assessment, including example risk assessments in the cleaning industry are available.

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Updated 2024-02-09